In a free-wheeling interview to TOI correspondent Shoeb Khan, UPSC chairman DP Agrawal shared his views on changing the exam format, corruption cases involving bureaucrats, and likely effect of reforms on the education system. Agarwal was in Kota to confer degrees to toppers of Rajasthan Technical University (RTU)
Q. Do you feel the need to change the pattern of UPSC exam?
Ans: Change in inevitable. The change in format of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam is necessary with rapid changes in our education system. The old method is not ineffective but needs to be revamped to keep a pace with the time. There are three stages in UPSC exam- preliminary, mains and personality test (interview). UPSC has already constituted a high-power panel to look into the matter. Its report is expected to come out early next year. It is most likely to be in effect from 2013.
Q. With corruption cases involving bureaucrats being reported almost everyday, does it reflect an inability to select the right candidates?
Ans: I disagree. UPSC always selects candidate judging his/her integrity, honesty and intelligence. The immediate way out is a continuous assessment of bureaucrats at various stages to minimise the possibility of their involvement in any malpractice.
Q. Do you feel that reforms in school education (scrapping Class X boards and introducing continuous and comprehensive evaluation) will help in churning out good students, who in turn, can become good administrative officers?
Ans: This system has allowed students to experiment, innovate and be creative, which was not possible in an examination-driven system. The learning must be individual and continuous, and should not be based on rote. This will bring a positive change in the society, and likewise in administrative officers.
Q. Has the introduction of various competitive exams at primary level taken away the childhood from our children?
Ans: The expectations of parents who always want to see their wards excelling in academics have shaped the mentality of students in such a way that children are highly motivated to participate in all kinds of exams. In the process, they take a lot of stress, which takes a toll on their health.
Q. Do you think the Right to Education Act is a tool for social change?
Ans: Yes, it will bring a big change in our society. This Act came at a right time and in next 10 years, it will deliver the results. By providing students of economically disadvantaged groups a fair excess to quality education along with a holistic environment, good meal and discipline will teach them to live with dignity.
Q In your opinion, should the government give weightage to Class X and XII marks in competitive exams?
Ans: It should have been done from day one. School scores are very important as it reflects the overall academic proficiency of students, since their foundation years.
Q: How can educational institutes raise the level of academics?
Ans: They have to expand and promote research work. The state and Centre-funded universities should be given full freedom to work towards this aim.
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